Indians go through their paces

picking master’s brain Yuvraj Singh (left) discusses a point with Rahul Dravid during  India’s net session at the Feroze Shah Kotla on Friday. AP

There was a reassuring touch of familiarity about the batsmen, but as the eyes followed the run-ups the bowlers were marking out, there was a hint of panic. “Are we in the right place?” was more than just a fleeting thought.

Not for a long, long time have India put out an attack as inexperienced as this. Of the six bowlers in the 15-man squad, four are yet to play a Test. The leader of the pack, Ishant Sharma, has played 38 Tests and taken 123 wickets, and he is only 23 years old! Pragyan Ojha, at 25, is the only other bowler with Test match experience, having taken 42 wickets from 11 Tests.

Pace bowlers Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron, and spinners R Ashwin and Rahul Sharma are all fresh faces, and while the first three have at least made international limited-overs appearances, leggie Rahul is yet to don India colours. Not since Tinu Yohannan, Iqbal Siddiqui and Sanjay Bangar all made their Test debuts in Mohali against England in December 2001 have India had an attack so short of international experience, though it is worth mentioning that that squad had both Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh.

Harbhajan’s rapidly declining strike rate, coupled with another injury to Zaheer Khan, have severely depleted bowling stocks. Indeed, at various stages during nets, even men like Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar must have been wondering if they had strayed into the wrong place. At one point, after playing for big turn and inside-edging a ball that barely turned from Rahul, Tendulkar told him, “I was playing for the turn,” to which the man from Punjab replied, “I can only turn it this much!” A lesson for the master, there!!

The players looked none the worse for their early morning exertions in flying out to Delhi, and their first training stint for their first Test match since August was a no-holds-barred, intense effort. India will back it up with another session on the morrow, and look to carry confidence and momentum with them as they ready for their first home Test since November last year.

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